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Outer Space Is One of the Best Climbs in Washington State

Out­er Space in Leav­en­worth is eas­i­ly one of the best 5.9 climbs in Wash­ing­ton State. It’s such a qual­i­ty route that it also makes an appear­ance among Fred Beckey’s 100 Favorite North Amer­i­can Climbs. As some­one who climbed obses­sive­ly from the time he was a teenag­er right up until the very end at 94, that’s say­ing something.

The strik­ing fifth pitch is what makes the climb: a per­fect hand crack splits the rock 400 feet off the ground with knob­by chick­en­heads to grap­ple with on either side. The crack on its own would be stel­lar, but some­thing about the knob­by gran­ite lumps — that pro­vide ample foot rests and hand­holds — bring out your inner child, putting a huge smile on your face as you clam­ber your way up.

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But this climb isn’t a one-pitch-won­der. The climb­ing lead­ing to the mon­ey pitch” and the final pitch after are stel­lar in their own way.

When fel­low Mad­ness guide Amber Smith and I climbed it recent­ly, we chose to climb the first pitch in approach shoes to cross a small patch of snow at the base of the route. The deci­sion was fine and dandy until we got to a few spots requir­ing del­i­cate, tra­vers­ing foot­work. In those moments, I found myself great­ly appre­ci­at­ing the sticky rub­ber and pre­ci­sion in my nor­mal climb­ing shoes. Which made me won­der: what the heck did Fred Beck­ey climb this route in back in 1968 when he nabbed the first ascent?

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On the top­ic of gear: as you climb the route, you climb past a few rusty pitons, much larg­er than what I’ve seen else­where. The idea of ham­mer­ing in a huge piton com­pared to the rel­a­tive ease of plac­ing a cam is enough to make you appre­ci­ate mod­ern climb­ing equip­ment. I remem­ber com­ing across one piton in par­tic­u­lar that looked like it had been snapped in half and won­der­ing how that hap­pened. (It prob­a­bly wasn’t a good time for the climber that broke it.) Amber and I decid­ed not to trust any of the old, rem­nant gear on the route. Moun­tain Project rec­om­mends a sparse dou­ble rack, but we decid­ed to bring triples in #1 and #2 size Camalots. We did not regret this deci­sion, giv­en the length of most every pitch on the route. (Don’t for­get to bring your .1 cam for the tra­vers­ing crux pitch!) Unfor­tu­nate­ly, I didn’t take any pho­tos of the pitons. You’ll have to climb the route to see them for yourself!

If you like adven­ture climb­ing, you’re going to love this route. This climb real­ly has it all: enough pitch­es to make for a com­mit­ting adven­ture, a diver­si­ty of climb­ing tech­niques and styles, decent views, and a few stand-out pitch­es that will stick with you for years to come. And in Amber’s and my case, it’s a route we look for­ward to return­ing to. Fred Beck­ey done good open­ing this one up. Climb it!